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No birds? What do you like to look at then? (1 Viewer)

bluespiderweb

Great Grey Looking Out
That's a nice idea, nac. We don't have a ceety park here, just a town park that closes at sunset! Not much of a veiw either, except for daytime. More birds there though, than in my neighborhood.

Another thing I enjoy looking at are the brick houses on one side of the block. They face the sunset, so they light up at that time, and they are very textured because of the uneven brickwork of the old houses. Nice for checking field of view and focus too.
 

Sancho

Registered User
Supporter
Ed

Lovely thread this. And best wishes to all contributors who are dealing with health issues. As regards looking at non-bird stuff, I agree clouds are a must. Especially in these latitudes (53ºN) with low winter sun over the Atlantic in the evening. And stuff in the sky. Once (years ago) I saw (from the West of Ireland!) a shuttle take-off. Well, a shuttle a few minutes after take-off. Meteors, various constellations. Ships, yachts, prawn-fishing boats and trawlers. Patterns on the surface of the sea. Breakers miles off-shore. On land, in the countryside, archaeology, signs of earlier human habitation. Sometimes what looks like a blank barren hillside, will, on closer inspection with binos, reveal ancient potato-rills, the outlines of a bothy, a few stones that once formed the base of a shebeen where some family eked out a living. I've even found with binos the traces of old 'fulacht fias', which are very ancient cooking sites that involved a pit, a surrounding earthen bank, and cooking or brewing by means of roasted stones thrown into the water-filled pit. I think the self-taught skill of observing birds that most of us acquired as kids serves to make us a little bit more observant and reflective when we look at 'other stuff'. I've never found a good fossil though;).
 

Patudo

Well-known member
If I had no birds to observe I would probably sell most of my binoculars. For me nothing comes close to observing a bird in all its vibrant life (except maybe what gunut mentioned in post #32 in the other thread).

bluespiderweb, I was just thinking that if there are good numbers of starlings, doves and so on in your area as you describe, there might be a Cooper's hawk or two lurking around. From what I gather these birds do quite well in urban/suburban areas and it would be genuinely challenging and satisfying to locate them and figure out their habits. I have seen the Cooper's hawk's smaller European cousin, the Eurasian sparrowhawk, right in the middle of London and a Birdforum member called ChrisKten, also living in the London area, has posted many superb photos of sparrowhawks snapped in his garden. See thread http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=351565
 

black crow

Well-known member
I like to hike up to a nice vantage point at my local park and glass across the cityscape at night.

Cities can be beautiful at night. I have 25X100 Oberwerks on my deck and can glass parts of my town at night as I live on a hill. There's a couple of winery's about a mile away I can see and look in on the people tasting wines through their big windows. B :)
 

bluespiderweb

Great Grey Looking Out
Nice interesting replies, guys! Yes, Patudo, we do have hawks here, and I am lucky to spot some from time to time from my rear window view, or elsewhere when I am out. They are one of my favorites to see. There had been a little Merlin that would hang around often, and some other larger ones from time to time. But often these rare visitors were hard to ID from a bright Southwestern window. Yes, I've seen Cooper's around, and Redtails, and Broadwing, and even a Bald Eagle once (not from my apartment, but close by)!

But in the Winter doldrums right now for birds that I have seen recently, so why I am looking at everything else I can find now! Have been doing a little upside down gazing at night from my bed, and hunting for whatever moves, or doesn't in my field of view! That ends in nap time, very often for want of something different to see! ; ) When my back starts feeling better, I will be going to the woods, for sure, even if there are no leaves, I still love being out there!
 

jremmons

Wildlife Biologist
I look at trees/wildflowers/insects in addition to birds. Insects is tough unless I'm using a fairly low power set.
 

bluespiderweb

Great Grey Looking Out
I look at trees/wildflowers/insects in addition to birds. Insects is tough unless I'm using a fairly low power set.

Or, you're far enough away! Last Fall when the weather was mild, I was watching some small insects (bees, small orange butterflies), at my wild place (in back of wife's strip office complex) next to the railroad tracks. They did pretty well (8x or 10x, I don't remember) but I was 20-30 feet away too while zeroing in on the insects.

Yes, 6x is nice for closeups!

PS When I'm out in the wilds, one of my favorites to look at is wild grasses-love them!
 
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Cluster

Well-known member
My home is in a suburb, with neighbours close by. Not so easy to sit at the window staring with any neighbouring property in view. When the birding is thin, I can sit on the bedroom floor and look at the crumbling brickwork on a mill nearby, completely out of sight of any neighbours. I like the texture of the masonry and find it great for testing/comparing binoculars and particularly scopes and eyepieces (not that I have many to test these days).
There are always lots of pigeons on the mill, lounging on the roof and walls or hiding from the wind and rain with the jackdaws in the many alcoves and sills. One day, I saw this.... and took my first ever picture on my phone through the scope eyepiece. So, now when I look at the brickwork, I keep an eye out for the Peregrine. https://www.dropbox.com/s/8igfovyt3005qod/mill2.jpg?dl=0
 

ailevin

Well-known member
I am lucky enough to have a view out over a channel with breakwater and then out to the Pacific with Catalina beyond. In addition to birds, I can watch seals, porpoises, and seasonally whales. When the weather is stormy and the birds are taking cover I enjoy watching the surface of the ocean, and especially the spray of the waves breaking over the rocks and then pouring into the channel. The spray, depending on the sunlight, can give a very wide range of brightness and hues. It seems like a color dynamic range test for binoculars. Not to sound like a laundry commercial, but you really can see whiter whites from one binocular to another. It's also a nice way to see differences in color emphasis in different binoculars.

Alan
 

Kammerdiner

Well-known member
Nice thread, Barry! An enjoyable read. I’m slightly laid-up with back problems myself right now and it’s good reading.

I have many good non-birding memories of binocular use, not so much from my windows though. I live in an old house with very wavy glass and binoculars are nearly useless for looking out. That kind of stinks but I like these old windows, too. I could reglaze them with better glass, but I’m lazy. Lol.

Anyway, here’s a couple non-bird highlights:

I like looking at cities from vantage points. I routinely visit New York City and San Francisco and have great memories of reviewing NYC with binoculars from points such as One World Observatory and Empire State, or SF from Coit Tower and Marin Headlands. Just so cool. From up on One World, looking way down at the Statue of Liberty, or way up to Midtown. I didn’t know this but there’s a reason why NYC has big buildings down by Wall Street, then nothing very tall until Midtown: it’s bedrock, or lack thereof. That’s something SF could learn from. They have a building, Millennium Tower, that’s gonna rival the leaning tower of Pisa in a few decades. I always look at it and say, “Can I see it leaning yet??” Maybe, maybe not. And one morning, quite by accident, I watched the world’s largest container ship, the Benjamin Franklin, make its maiden voyage under the Golden Gate. Very cool with binoculars.

Here’s another favorite: first day on the backpacking trail and we’re up around 7500 feet. Around sunset I look up at a nearby ragged peak, maybe 10-11k feet (I’d have to look it up) and I wonder how cool it would be to get up there to spend the night. And suddenly wow, with binoculars there’s a tiny, bright-red parka up there moving around, a guy settling in for the night. Oh, I was a little envious, even though our campsite was truly spectacular.

But hey, the birds are already singing, right? Spring is right around the corner! I’m afraid one of my favorites, “Mr. Pink,” is no longer with us. He was a leucistic Northern Cardinal, just georgeous in coral pink, and I watched him for maybe seven years. Tempus fugit. Carpe diem.
 
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bluespiderweb

Great Grey Looking Out
My home is in a suburb, with neighbours close by. Not so easy to sit at the window staring with any neighbouring property in view. When the birding is thin, I can sit on the bedroom floor and look at the crumbling brickwork on a mill nearby, completely out of sight of any neighbours. I like the texture of the masonry and find it great for testing/comparing binoculars and particularly scopes and eyepieces (not that I have many to test these days).
There are always lots of pigeons on the mill, lounging on the roof and walls or hiding from the wind and rain with the jackdaws in the many alcoves and sills. One day, I saw this.... and took my first ever picture on my phone through the scope eyepiece. So, now when I look at the brickwork, I keep an eye out for the Peregrine. https://www.dropbox.com/s/8igfovyt3005qod/mill2.jpg?dl=0

Wow, Cluster, nice shot of that falcon!!! You were very fortunate to have seen that! And the first time you used your phone scope too! At least the raptors are a little more cooperative at picture taking and viewing in general, it seems than the standard nervous bird population that can drive you a bit crazy at times just trying to find and watch them for more than it takes you to zero in on them! Your falcon had a nice sized meal there too, it seems to keep it in sight for a little while.

Yes I use some of the brick chimneys and brickwork of the two old houses I can see here as references when comparing bins as well. Thanks for sharing your inventive process and sightings!
 

bluespiderweb

Great Grey Looking Out
Nice thread, Barry! An enjoyable read. I’m slightly laid-up with back problems myself right now and it’s good reading.

I have many good non-birding memories of binocular use, not so much from my windows though. I live in an old house with very wavy glass and binoculars are nearly useless for looking out. That kind of stinks but I like these old windows, too. I could reglaze them with better glass, but I’m lazy. Lol.

Anyway, here’s a couple non-bird highlights:

I like looking at cities from vantage points. I routinely visit New York City and San Francisco and have great memories of reviewing NYC with binoculars from points such as One World Observatory and Empire State, or SF from Coit Tower and Marin Headlands. Just so cool. From up on One World, looking way down at the Statue of Liberty, or way up to Midtown. I didn’t know this but there’s a reason why NYC has big buildings down by Wall Street, then nothing very tall until Midtown: it’s bedrock, or lack thereof. That’s something SF could learn from. They have a building, Millennium Tower, that’s gonna rival the leaning tower of Pisa in a few decades. I always look at it and say, “Can I see it leaning yet??” Maybe, maybe not. And one morning, quite by accident, I watched the world’s largest container ship, the Benjamin Franklin, make its maiden voyage under the Golden Gate. Very cool with binoculars.

Here’s another favorite: first day on the backpacking trail and we’re up around 7500 feet. Around sunset I look up at a nearby ragged peak, maybe 10-11k feet (I’d have to look it up) and I wonder how cool it would be to get up there to spend the night. And suddenly wow, with binoculars there’s a tiny, bright-red parka up there moving around, a guy settling in for the night. Oh, I was a little envious, even though our campsite was truly spectacular.

But hey, the birds are already singing, right? Spring is right around the corner! I’m afraid one of my favorites, “Mr. Pink,” is no longer with us. He was a leucistic Northern Cardinal, just georgeous in coral pink, and I watched him for maybe seven years. Tempus fugit. Carpe diem.

Hey Kammerdiner, nice reply too! Your old wavy glass windows may be giving others joy just looking at them at sunset when they light up and show their colors in patterns like I see here on my neighbor's house! Wildly lit and vibrant colors and pattern-hard to believe it's just reflection and refraction at work, but appreciated.

Personally I like heights, and being above it all, though I've had few opportunities to do that (never have been that high, in any form relative to the 7500 ft. you were at! It sounds like you've got it down (well, up probably) though, and I can see the attraction. Not to mention how "cool" or neat, seeing the Benjamin Franklin going under the Golden Gate bridge!

I managed to get out just a little yesterday, after a couple of rainy days here, and saw Mr and Mrs Cardinal-funny, I found her first while glassing, and he wasn't too hard to find after! And I also saw Mr and Mrs Mocking bird, but they weren't mocking at all-in fact, the little soft chirps of the Cardinals were louder (both feeding on Juniper berries it seems)! Nothing much else, other than a Turkey Vulture or two in the sky, and Mourning Doves perched on the wires, and UFO's (starlings most likely) flying at speed across the unfruited plain grasses in the old and rambling vacant factory lot. Very much what I see from my bedrooms minus the less wild scenery, and the Cardinals of late, which I haven't seen for a while.

Your experiences with binoculars Kammerdiner, sound so much more exotic, and nice to hear to imagine being there. Just like Alan's (aileven) Pacific channel view and the breakwaters, which sounds great too.

Thanks you guys, it's nice to hear what other people find to view when it's not the birds that are in the picture most of the time.
 
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bluespiderweb

Great Grey Looking Out
Lovely thread this. And best wishes to all contributors who are dealing with health issues. As regards looking at non-bird stuff, I agree clouds are a must. Especially in these latitudes (53ºN) with low winter sun over the Atlantic in the evening. And stuff in the sky. Once (years ago) I saw (from the West of Ireland!) a shuttle take-off. Well, a shuttle a few minutes after take-off. Meteors, various constellations. Ships, yachts, prawn-fishing boats and trawlers. Patterns on the surface of the sea. Breakers miles off-shore. On land, in the countryside, archaeology, signs of earlier human habitation. Sometimes what looks like a blank barren hillside, will, on closer inspection with binos, reveal ancient potato-rills, the outlines of a bothy, a few stones that once formed the base of a shebeen where some family eked out a living. I've even found with binos the traces of old 'fulacht fias', which are very ancient cooking sites that involved a pit, a surrounding earthen bank, and cooking or brewing by means of roasted stones thrown into the water-filled pit. I think the self-taught skill of observing birds that most of us acquired as kids serves to make us a little bit more observant and reflective when we look at 'other stuff'. I've never found a good fossil though;).

Sancho, very interesting reply. I'm also interested in archeology, and seeing things in the land that have been, or finding evidence of it. My preference in that is looking for artifacts of native american origin, mainly stone tools and arrowheads, of which I've even used binoculars (low power 6x) to help see or find.

But past civilizations are fascinating subjects, but rarely able to be viewed by binoculars, though as you say-observation is the key here, and being more observant will add to all of it.

I've had my head down looking for rocks, fossils and later, arrowheads, and have found little, but a few personal treasures here and there that keep me going and hoping to find something else, along with being where I want to be-outside in the wilds, or even not so wilds, that contain nature in any form when I can and feel up to it!

But I've also learned along the way to look through binoculars too, at other times and find nature through them looks even better and more interesting with them than without!
 

tenex

reality-based
We use binoculars all the time here in the Rocky Mountains, starting simply with orientation. I know roughly where I am in the usual ways (intuition, map) but there's a third vertical dimension to process as well, so I can't wait to get to the top of a ridge or peak to look around, spot landmarks, etc. This feels more meaningful somehow than reading a topographic map, which in principle conveys the same basic information. One sees many valleys where people seldom go even today.

Then there's wildlife: birds of course, ravens (my own favorite), hawks, eagles, jays and so on. Also the occasional herd of bighorn sheep, rarer now than decades ago, or mountain goats, which were introduced here for hunting (as moose also have been, more recently). You can spot the goats from a great distance but don't always need binos to enjoy them; they're curious and we've had them come right up to us, an experience that does leave us a bit uneasy about the hunting. In summer you can see bits of white fur on bushes or posts, whatever they can find to rub against. We enjoy marmots, and sometimes have them also come quite close. Cats are more rarely seen, but last summer three bobcats crossed our trail less than a hundred yards in front of us and went off into the woods.

There's some archaeology too, mostly quite recent, c.1880s. Mining remains are visible in many areas above treeline, though often hidden below it, and more easily enjoyed through binos than by climbing up every mountainside. Occasionally it's more ancient (thousands of years): in a spot right on the Continental Divide you can still faintly make out lines of stones and shallow pits, where native people built short walls (likely topped by sticks with blowing feathers) to channel migrating elk herds within bowshot of their hideouts. I don't know how easily these could be recognized at a distance with binos, as it would take a long steep hike to view them from another mountainside; you go right past them, because modern trails still follow where the ancient ones went, for the same reasons. Of course all of this gets worn down by winter snows and wind, and the wooden mining shacks will soon enough go the way of those feather sticks.
 

Patudo

Well-known member
Nice interesting replies, guys! Yes, Patudo, we do have hawks here, and I am lucky to spot some from time to time from my rear window view, or elsewhere when I am out. They are one of my favorites to see. There had been a little Merlin that would hang around often, and some other larger ones from time to time. But often these rare visitors were hard to ID from a bright Southwestern window. Yes, I've seen Cooper's around, and Redtails, and Broadwing, and even a Bald Eagle once (not from my apartment, but close by)!

Wow, bluespider - you've got some neat raptors in your area. I've only seen one merlin to date (mobbing an adult female peregrine!) and would love to see the American subspecies as well as Cooper's, which we don't have here. There's something very special about the Accipiter hawks - hair-trigger predators that look out at the world through the fiercest red eyes. That such wild creatures can coexist in suburban or urban habitats is testimony to nature's resilience, if we let it.

Cluster, thanks for sharing that photo - you must have had a great view through your scope. I wonder if it will take up residence on that building - from what I can see (browny upperparts, what looks like streaks on its thigh coverts) it looks like a juvenile, probably searching for a territory of its own. A large derelict mill with a resident population of feral pigeons wouldn't be a bad place...

ailevin... you are a lucky guy! I couldn't, in all honesty, pick up my binoculars to look at spiderwebs, tree bark or even weather patterns for more than a few minutes, but scanning the ocean for activity I could do, and have done, for hours. The ability to spot and then interpret the behaviour of birds feeding over bonito, tuna and other game fish has always been one of the most prized abilities in ocean sport fishing, and having gotten into the habit of relying on binoculars for birding has materially changed my approach to fishing. Unfortunately so much activity from marine creatures takes place beneath the surface, invisible to our eyes, but when things start happening on or above the surface, binoculars let you study the drama of life and death at sea in detail that most folks would only experience through watching a TV programme. I only really get the chance to do this on holiday, I wish I could look over the ocean every day, or even every weekend...
 

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